rollercoaster

Roller Coasters: Bigger is not Always Better

We’ve got a fantastic guest article by Sally Stacey.  Sally loves roller coasters, travels around the world to ride them and even works in a theme park in the UK from time to time as a ride controller! She writes for a number of websites including Vision MX where she got herself a Contour helmet camera to record on-ride action when she gets the chance.

I absolutely love roller coasters and often travel great distances to ride these thrilling machines. These days I constantly marvel at how things have moved on since I experienced my first coaster back in 1977. In those days the corkscrew at Alton Towers was where it was at with thrill rides but coasters of this type are now rather tame in comparison to the complex masses of colourful metal that now propel their riders to ever increasing altitudes and speeds. Curiously, though, it not always the tallest or fastest rides that prove to be the best. A great coaster is produced when the perfect combination of elements result in the creation of a superlative ride experience. Bigger is not always better and now coaster manufacturers seem to moving away from creating more and more enormous constructions towards novelty, innovation and even playing tricks on the mind.

The Best

All coaster enthusiasts have their favourite rides and so there can never be one which is definitively the best but for me the greatest ride experience in the world is to be had on Maverick at Cedar Point in Ohio. At 105 ft this ride is diminutive in stature compared to many of the behemoths on offer but the 70 mph chase through sharp twists and inversions, the mid cycle launch and the ride’s layout combine to produce a compelling experience with no equal that I have found. Having constructed the 420 ft giant Top Thrill Dragster and the much heralded 310 ft Millennium Force, the park turned away from altitude and maximum velocity to commission a ride full of energy and surprises that may be small but packs a real punch. The construction of this ride seems to have turned coaster design in a whole new direction with some interesting results.

Maverick at Cedar Point, Ohio.  Photograph by Craig Lloyd via Flickr(CC BY 2.0).

New Innovations

Just as steel coasters saw a new breed emerge with the introduction of Maverick so have wooden coasters taken a new turn. Like their steel cousins wooden coasters were growing bigger and bigger but new rides built by Great Coasters International Inc (GCII) use twisting tracks, steep cambers and high speed station passes to generate the thrills. The new woodies use articulated Millennium Flyer trains to negotiate the track. These vehicles can cope with the sharp turns and certainly deliver a very comfortable ride. Wodan, the new coaster at Europa Park in Germany, is a fine example of a GCII ride and delivers full on thrills from start to finish. I love this ride and it doesn’t matter at all that it is neither the highest nor fasted woody on the planet.

Wodan at Europa Park, Germany.  Photograph by Gabriel Rinaldi via Flickr (CC BY 2.0) .

Mind Games

Things are now set to take yet another twist with Alton Tower’s new ride for 2013. Smiler will be a steel coaster with multiple inversions but that is not where the trickery will end. The ride is set to incorporate several features deliberately designed to confuse the mind in order to exaggerate the intensity of the experience. The cars will charge towards giant hypodermic needles and hypnotic spinning wheels with the accompaniment of lighting effects. These features will distract riders, diverting their attention from the drops and inversions thus making them more surprising and of greater intensity. Well that is the theory anyway! There are strict limits to how much G force a coaster is permitted to inflict on riders and so if you have reached that limit and cannot make the ride any more severe you simply have to make it feel like it is. I can’t wait to try Smiler which is scheduled to open in May 2013 and I shall try to smuggle a helmet camera onto the ride in order to record the faces of the guests which are often as much fun as the rides themselves!

New wood coaster for California’s Great America in 2013

California’s Great America will open the tallest and fastest wooden roller coaster in Northern California in the spring of 2013.


High-speed twists, turns, drops, a station fly-by and the Old West are the top features of Gold Striker, currently under construction. The ride will stand 108 feet at its highest point with a first drop of 103 feet at a 50-degree angle. Riders will careen along 3,197 feet of track at speeds up to 54 miles per hour. The ride experience on Gold Striker will last more than two minutes. Continue reading

New Coaster Confirmed for 2013 at Cedar Point

B&M Winged Style Coaster

Cedar Point will be building a $25-million winged coaster for 2013, a company memo has revealed. Similar in design to Wild Eagle, this coaster will take the place of Disaster Transport and surrounding area in the front of the park. It’s also set to fly over the front gate to make a statement, similar to Leviathan. We’ll be investigating further on our upcoming trip: June 18-22. Read the entire article from The Sandusky Register below:

Cedar Fair stands ready to spend big money on a new roller coaster for 2013 at Cedar Point that will change the park landscape.
Code-named “CP Alt.Winged,” the coaster will have the “longest drop, run the fastest and be the longest ride” of its kind, Cedar Fair CEO Matt Ouimet wrote in Feb. 15 memo to Cedar Fair’s board of directors.
The total projected cost of the project is $25 million, a price that includes removing the park’s Space Spiral and Disaster Transport rides and restructuring the park entrance.
Ouimet was unavailable for comment Tuesday.
Lee Alexakos, corporate vice president of marketing, declined to confirm the information in the memo.
“We have not announced any plans for 2013 but we did announce a $25 million investment,” Alexakos said. “This will be one of the largest capital expenditures ever.”
Alexakos said that with any ride or attraction Cedar Point undertakes, the company is always looking to set records.
The Swiss-based Bolliger & Mabillard Consulting Engineers is set to design the new ride, which was described in the memo as having a “Front Gate Statement— a roller coaster that flies overhead, rolls and flies back— highly visible above guests entering the park.”
The firm designed Cedar Point’s Raptor.
A winged coaster is designed to suspend riders on wings to the sides of the rails so there is no track above or below the guest.
Engineering schematics show a proposed coaster with gravity defying twists, curves and rolls.
“Rob Decker (Cedar Fair VP of planning and design) and others have done a great job of creating a compelling, economically attractive new coaster for Cedar Point,” Ouimet wrote. “We believe this particular ride design with this particular manufacturer balances the desire for marketable innovation and risk associated with early adaptations of prototypes.”
Bolliger & Mabillard designed the first winged coaster for installation in Italy at a park known as Gardaland. The Six Flags Great American park outside of Chicago also has one of the company’s winged coasters, called X-Flight.
The new ride at Cedar Point could promise to be a work horse available to guests at almost any time they are in the park.
“Rob talked to operators of the first one in Italy and found no unanticipated negatives and very high ride reliability (less than 1 percent operational downtime).
Design plans show the new ride with a 170-foot tall lift that will fly overhead of park guests entering the park. It will have the longest track and longest ride time of any coaster of its style as it flies overhead, rolls and then fly back.
The huge roller coaster will dominate the front gate and the track will travel over a large parking area at the park.
“We have several coasters that cover parking lots,” Ouimet wrote. “Not necessarily ideal, but certainly acceptable given tight site constraints and the amount of land such attractions require.”
Disaster Transport and the Space Spiral both would have to come down if the site plan currently under consideration is chosen.
Part of the $25 million investment will also include renovations and upgrades at the park entrance from the parking lot.
Cedar Point general manger John Hildebrandt was not available for comment on Tuesday.